From 1975 to 1981 the jazz giant Miles Davis temporarily retired from music. Almost completely reclusive, nobody outside of a very close circle knew what was happening to him. Only one jazz writer was able to get close to him during this time: Eric Nisenson. From 1978 to 1981 Nisenson conducted dozens of interviews with Miles Davis and his associates. The result was" 'Round About Midnight, "an engaging firsthand account of Miles's fascinating and difficult career. From his recordings with Charlie Parker and the birth of the cool nonet, through the Coltrane quintet, the Gil Evans-arranged masterpieces of the sixties, the landmark "Kind of Blue "album, the Shorter/Hancock/ Carter/Williams group, and the success of Miles's fusion recordings of the seventies, Miles's personality--contemplative, abruptly defiant, strong, elegant--meshed with his art to form one of the most compelling legends in the history of American music. Whole actively disdaining his audience, he sought to broaden it by incorporating elements of other musics--classical, flamenco, rock, funk--into his uncompromising jazz. This contradictory combination of contempt and a desire for recognition fueled controversy in both his public and private lives, and resulted in Miles's lengthy self-imposed isolation. Nisenson broke through that isolation, and his biographical portrait is vivid and telling This updated edition features a new preface, new material covering Miles in the eighties, and a new recommended listening section.
While Ian Carr's impressive Miles Davis (p. 832) concentrated intensely, and in nearly note-by-note detail, on Davis' recordings and performances, this somewhat more casual biography pays about equal attention to the music itself and to matters of personality. The essential life-story comes across pretty much the same in both books: middle-class East St. Louis background; the N.Y.-centered lure of Clark Terry, Dizzy Gillespie, and (especially) Charlie Parker; the early disappointments and drug addiction; the up-and-down moves through be-bop, cool, orchestral concepts (collaborations with Gil Evans), the great quintet, thorny colleague-ships with John Coltrane and others; illnesses (emphasized more by Carr); brushes with the law; three marriages. And, like Carr, Nisenson fails to find much shape or depth in Davis' personal life - despite drug-addiction anecdotes, quotes from Miles himself, some raunchy interview material, and a good deal of (not-always-convincing) reconstructed dialogue. Still, Nisenson's less scholarly appreciations of the Davis career, though often dependent on quotes from other critics, do offer a subtly different, sometimes equally plausible view of his musical development: more emphasis on outside influences (Ornette Coleman especially), greater enthusiasm for the work produced during Davis' "down" periods. So, while serious jazz buffs will probably prefer Carr's more exhaustive and technical approach, less hard-core fans may find this slightly livelier, not-so-authoritative study a serviceable alternative. (Kirkus Reviews)
Number Of Pages: 336
Published: 1st March 1996
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 21.6 x 14.0 x 1.9
Weight (kg): 0.5
Edition Number: 2